Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

North Somerset Council cuts respite care funding

John and Teresa Southern at home
Teresa Southern fears she won't cope if respite care is cut by the council

The cost of respite care is to rise for some people in North Somerset.

Relatives who look after loved ones with dementia will have to pay more to take a break because the council is reducing the service to save money.

Carers face an additional concern in that the only council-run home specialising in dementia care may shut.

Now lawyers representing the families of some residents say they are preparing a legal fight to keep the home open.

Day centre

John Southern, who is 72, has had dementia for several years. He is cared for by his wife, Teresa, at their home in Long Ashton.

Mrs Southern said she can only manage because she has up to eight weeks a year of subsidised respite care.

She said: "I'm up every night, sometimes several times a night.

"During the day John goes to a day centre so I do get some relief then.

"But respite is something I can look forward to and desperately need from time to time and without it I won't cope."

'Very distressed'

The couple have received a letter from North Somerset Council telling them the number of subsidised weeks is to be halved to four.

And councillors are considering closing all 18 beds at a specialist dementia care nursing home in Worle called Poppyfields.

Three beds at Poppyfields are for respite care and it is where Mr Southern is looked after when he is not at home.

Chris Kinsey of Hossacks, a firm of solicitors, said some of the families had asked the firm to represent them if the closure goes ahead.

"They are feeling very, very distressed because they feel their relatives are being very well cared for where they are."

North Somerset Council said it believed the service could be provided by private care homes in the area, and savings made would pay for an extra 13 beds.

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